Expanding the European Union’s list of Eastern partner countries is of strategic importance to the Visegrad Group, Hungary’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference after a meeting of V4 leaders, European Commission and Estonian officials and politicians from the Eastern Partnership countries in Budapest, Péter Szijjártó urged the adoption of a resolution aiming for the “most ambitious and boldest possible” alliance-building strategy at the next EU-Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels.
The V4 will also push to ensure that spending on such strategies is not reduced in the EU’s next funding cycle, Szijjártó said.
The minister said the EU’s Eastern partners could help curb mass migration to Europe and aid the bloc in more effectively reaching Far Eastern markets. These countries can also help prevent the spread of extremist ideologies that fuel terrorism, he added.
Speaking about the achievements of the Eastern Partnership, Szijjártó highlighted the visa waivers given to Georgia and Ukraine and the Ukraine-EU association agreement which enters into force on Friday.
As regards energy security, Szijjártó said linking the southern gas corridor with central Europe would have been impossible without the continent’s Eastern partners.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowsky expressed hope that EU member states would support deepening ties with the Eastern Partnership countries at a November summit in Brussels.
Pavlo Klimkin, foreign minister of Ukraine, called the proposal to deepen EU-Eastern Partnership relations a “sign of European solidarity”. He also said the entry into force of the association agreement would be “an important moment” because “we are on our way to a European future in spite of Russian aggression”. This is the only path that can lead to European Union membership for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, he said.
Slovak foreign ministry state secretary Lukas Parizek said the November summit would provide both sides with a vision of how to further advance ties. The EU must make clear the reforms it expects the Eastern Partnership countries to undertake, he said, adding that six partner countries had already reassured the bloc of their intention to introduce the necessary reforms.
Azeri Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said his country was working with the EU in five specific areas, adding that talks on a strategic partnership agreement were ongoing. He said EU-Azerbaijan cooperation would focus mainly on trade, education and advancing democracy, adding that the southern gas corridor, which could provide 20 percent of the EU’s gas reserves, would also play an important role.
Czech foreign ministry state secretary Petr Gajdusek said his country aimed to boost “practical” cooperation between the EU and its Eastern partners, adding that the partnership would have to lay out a “far more broad” plan for moving forward at the conclusion of the November summit.
Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze noted that his country has been a partner of the EU for close to four years. The partnership allows Georgia to place its products on the single market and its citizens have visa-free entry to the EU. The end goal, however, is full-fledged EU membership, he added.
Vladimir Makei, Belarus’s foreign minister, said the Eastern Partnership was an important mechanism for developing his country’s political and economic ties as well as its energy infrastructure.
Daniela Morari, deputy foreign minister of Moldova, said her country had chosen to follow the European model for development.
Gagik Ghalachyan, head of the Armenian foreign ministry’s department of European affairs, said Armenia was an active member of the Eastern Partnership, adding that the country was committed to a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.